When is the last time you actually made eye contact with a stranger in an elevator, much less exchanged meaningful conversation about your respective businesses? Seriously, the Elevator Pitch is a useless concept for most of us.

Here's the real scenario that we all run into regularly – the one for which we really need to be prepared:

You're at a party/get-together/social gathering/networking event. You walk up to a group of friendly-looking folks who are chatting easily and lightly. Possibly you even know one or two of them. You join in the conversation, chatting easily and enjoying the flow of conversation. Then, a lull occurs in the conversation and the person next to you (who you don't know), turns to you to introduce himself. After a nice little “hello” exchange, your new conversational partner asks, “So, what do you do for work?”

That familiar tightness in your chest and belly descends upon you, your eyes dart away briefly. You frantically search your mind for that “elevator speech” you forced yourself to create from a recent marketing book you read. When you remember that elevator speech, your expected relief turns to angst as you realize you simply cannot say that lame, stiff-sounding description to this cool, new stranger. So, you mumble your way through a vague or uninspiring description of your work and quickly change the subject to distract from your own discomfort.

Another casual networking opportunity lost.

Don’t let this happen ever again. Your “elevator speech” isn’t working for (at least) three reasons:

  1. You’re not in an elevator
  2. This is not an investor pitch
  3. It’s not designed for friendly, casual conversation

Elevator Pitches (aka Elevator Speeches) were coined as such back when people tried to “pitch” potential investors in high-rise elevators to get them to invest in their budding companies. The environment was formal and business-focused and the eager entrepreneur wasn’t trying to make friends in this elevator. She wanted money (and maybe some expertise thrown in) for her business.

Most of us aren’t “networking” in elevators. We want to (and should) be much more subtle than these elevator pitches were designed to be. We meet potential clients, fans and referral associates at networking events, neighborhood parties and online in social media areas.

This is why I like to call your answer to the question, “What do you do?”,  The Party Pitch.

Your Party Pitch should have these three elements:

  1. Say what problem you solve/desire you meet
  2. Name the kind of person you help
  3. Give a sense of what it will be like to work with you

Here are some examples:

I help entrepreneurs create businesses based on their passion then get the word out through public speaking, social media and writing. (that's me!)

I help people create positive change in their lives through simple shifts in their home and work spaces.

I help women in personal and professional transition make necessary changes with less anxiety.

I help men spend more time with their kids while maintaining positive career growth and personal interests.

The point is – you're at a party and no one wants you to sell to them outright. No one. Even if this is a networking event where the purpose is to encourage business exchange, no one wants you to sell to them without their invitation. And yet, if you can help them solve a problem, or allow them to be the hero that helps a friend solve a problem, then you want them to know it. It's a fancy little dance – an important one.

Now, don't expect it to flow off your tongue right away, no matter how hard you work to make your Party Pitch natural and casual. It's new, it's designed, and you haven't had it pulled together quite this way before. As long as you choose language that reflects your natural way of speaking (use contractions, add in your favorite descriptor-type words) and you keep it relatively succinct, you'll get used to it nicely. And you'll never have to stumble over the “What do you do?” question again. I know that is a relief to you because I've heard (and also been the perpetrator of) way too many stumble sessions at parties myself.

Party on, my friend.

Thank you, dyobmit, for the strange elevator sign.